The Cranberries were an Irish rock band known for their unique sound, characterized by the mesmerizing vocals of frontwoman Dolores O’Riordan. The band first gained recognition with their hit single “Dreams,” which introduced their eccentric and hopeful tunes to the world.

Their first full-length album, “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?” (1993), further solidified their status in the music industry.

The band was initially formed under the name ‘The Cranberry Saw Us,’ but after their original singer left, O’Riordan joined the group, leading to a name change and a new direction for their music.

Background of the Song “Zombie”

“Zombie” is one of the most iconic songs by The Cranberries. It stands out due to its powerful political message and its departure from the band’s typically softer sound.

Historical and Political Context

The early 1990s were a tumultuous time in Northern Ireland, marked by ongoing conflict between the region’s Protestant and Catholic communities. This era, known as the Troubles, was characterized by civil unrest, political strife, and violence.

The Warrington bombings in March 1993 were a tragic event during this period. The bombings were carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a paramilitary group that sought to end British rule in Northern Ireland and unify it with the Republic of Ireland.

The Warrington Bombings

On March 20, 1993, two bombs exploded in the English town of Warrington, Cheshire. The bombs had been placed in trash cans in the town’s shopping area. Tragically, the bombings resulted in the deaths of two children: three-year-old Johnathan Ball and twelve-year-old Tim Parry. More than 50 others were injured in the attack.

The Warrington bombings sparked widespread condemnation and outrage, both in Britain and internationally. In Ireland, it led to mass protests against the IRA and served as a catalyst for peace talks, which eventually culminated in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

The Cranberries’ song “Zombie” was written in response to these bombings. Lead singer Dolores O’Riordan was deeply affected by the event, particularly the loss of innocent children’s lives.

The song was a departure from the band’s usual style, featuring heavy guitar riffs and haunting lyrics that expressed O’Riordan’s anger and sorrow over the senseless violence.

Lyrics Analysis

“Zombie” is a song laden with symbolism, its lyrics reflecting the intense emotions stirred by the Warrington bombings and the wider conflict in Northern Ireland.

First Verse:

Another head hangs lowly Child is slowly taken And the violence caused such silence Who are we mistaken?

The first verse speaks directly to the tragedy of the Warrington bombings. The “head hanging lowly” symbolizes the sorrow and despair felt by those affected by the violence.

The “child is slowly taken” refers to the young victims of the bombings. The “violence causing silence” alludes to the shock and disbelief that followed the tragedy.

The question “who are we mistaken?” challenges the justification for the violence, questioning who the real enemies are.


But you see, it’s not me It’s not my family In your head, in your head, they are fighting With their tanks, and their bombs And their bombs, and their guns In your head, in your head, they are crying

The chorus repeats throughout the song, reinforcing its central message. “It’s not me, it’s not my family” underscores the fact that ordinary people, like the children killed in Warrington, are often the victims of political conflicts they did not create.

The phrase “in your head, they are fighting” suggests that the real battle is ideological, fought over beliefs and perceptions. The mention of “tanks, bombs, and guns” serves as a stark reminder of the harsh realities of war.

Second Verse:

Another mother’s breaking Heart is taking over When the violence causes silence We must be mistaken

The second verse parallels the first, this time focusing on the grieving mother of a child lost to the violence.

Again, the “violence causing silence” signifies how shocking acts of violence can leave communities stunned and speechless. The repetition of “we must be mistaken” reiterates the senseless nature of the violence.


In your head, in your head Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie What’s in your head, in your head? Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie, oh

The repeated use of the word “zombie” in the outro conveys the dehumanizing effect of war. It suggests that those perpetrating the violence have become mindless, like zombies, driven by ideologies or orders rather than empathy and reason.

Throughout the song, O’Riordan’s haunting vocals underscore the pain, anger, and sorrow evoked by the lyrics. The recurring themes of violence, war, and the impact on innocent civilians make “Zombie” a powerful anti-war anthem that continues to resonate today.

Music Video Analysis

The music video for “Zombie” was directed by Samuel Bayer, who is also known for directing Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video. The visual elements of the video serve to amplify the song’s themes of violence, loss, and political conflict.

The video alternates between shots of The Cranberries performing in a dimly lit room and scenes depicting the consequences of war. Lead singer Dolores O’Riordan is painted gold and surrounded by silver-painted cherubs, symbolizing innocence and purity. This imagery starkly contrasts with the violent images interspersed throughout the video.

One recurring element in the video is a group of children playing in a war-torn environment, oblivious to the danger around them. This could be interpreted as a representation of the innocent victims of the Warrington bombings, who were caught up in a conflict they had no part in creating.

In one scene, a British soldier is shown with a tear rolling down his cheek, perhaps symbolizing the sorrow and regret of those tasked with enforcing the law during the Troubles. It could also be seen as a critique of the military’s role in the conflict.

Another powerful image shows a cross being shattered by a bullet, symbolizing the destructive impact of the conflict on Ireland’s religious communities. This aligns with the song’s theme of the senseless destruction caused by political violence.

Public and Critical Reception

Upon its release in 1994, “Zombie” by The Cranberries received a mixed response from the public and critics, primarily due to its political message. While many appreciated the band’s courage in addressing a sensitive topic, others were uncomfortable with the overt political commentary.

The song quickly became a hit, reaching number one on the charts in several countries. It was praised for its haunting melody and powerful lyrics, which resonated with many listeners who were familiar with the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Critics, however, were divided. Some lauded the song’s bold political stance and Dolores O’Riordan’s passionate vocals, while others felt the song was too heavy-handed in its approach. Despite the mixed reviews, “Zombie” went on to become one of The Cranberries’ most successful and iconic songs.

Controversy and Backlash

“Zombie” was not without controversy. Its explicit reference to the violence in Northern Ireland was unusual for a mainstream rock song, and it sparked debate among listeners and within the music industry.

The song’s music video, which included footage of British soldiers and violent protests, was deemed too political by some broadcasters. The BBC decided not to play the video due to its potentially controversial content.

Despite the controversy and backlash, “Zombie” remains a poignant reminder of the tragic consequences of political conflict. Its enduring popularity attests to its powerful message and the band’s success in using music as a form of social commentary.

Legacy and Impact

Over time, “Zombie” has transcended its initial controversy to become a classic, frequently cited as The Cranberries’ signature song. Its exploration of political violence continues to resonate, particularly in times of global unrest.

The song’s legacy is evident in its enduring popularity and its influence on other musicians. Many artists, from various genres, have covered “Zombie”, each bringing their own interpretation to the song’s powerful message.

In 2018, American rock band Bad Wolves released a cover of “Zombie” that reached number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart.

This version was initially intended to feature Dolores O’Riordan herself, but she tragically passed away on the day she was supposed to record her vocals. In tribute, Bad Wolves donated the proceeds from the song to O’Riordan’s children.

“Zombie” has also permeated popular culture, appearing in numerous television shows and films. For example, it was featured in an episode of the TV series “The Office” (US) and in the film “The Next Karate Kid”.


“Zombie’s” blunt commentary on the senseless violence of war, coupled with its haunting melody and impassioned vocals, has made it a timeless protest anthem. The song’s legacy lies not only in its chart success but in its ability to provoke thought and conversation about political conflict and its human cost.

FAQs about “Meaning behind ‘Zombie’ By The Cranberries”

1. What is the song ‘Zombie’ by The Cranberries about?

“Zombie” is a protest song by The Cranberries that discusses the political violence in Northern Ireland, known as the Troubles. It was written in response to the 1993 Warrington bombings, which resulted in the death of two young boys.

2. Why did The Cranberries write ‘Zombie’?

The Cranberries wrote “Zombie” as a reaction to the Warrington bombings. The band, particularly lead singer Dolores O’Riordan, wanted to express their frustration and sadness over the senseless violence and its impact on innocent lives.

3. What does the term ‘Zombie’ refer to in the song?

In the context of the song, ‘Zombie’ refers to the individuals and systems perpetuating the cycle of violence, seemingly without thought or feeling – like zombies.

4. Was the song ‘Zombie’ controversial when it was released?

Yes, the song was considered controversial due to its explicit commentary on the political situation in Northern Ireland. Some broadcasters, including the BBC, chose not to play the music video because of its potentially sensitive content.

5. How has the public perception of ‘Zombie’ changed over time?

While “Zombie” initially received mixed reviews due to its political message, it has since become one of The Cranberries’ most popular and enduring songs. Today, it is often praised for its powerful commentary on the impact of political violence on innocent lives.

6. What influence has ‘Zombie’ had on other artists and popular culture?

“Zombie” has had a significant impact on other artists, with many musicians covering the song in tribute to The Cranberries and its message. It has also appeared in numerous films and television shows, demonstrating its enduring relevance in popular culture.

7. Are there any notable cover versions of ‘Zombie’?

One of the most notable cover versions of “Zombie” is by American rock band Bad Wolves. This version reached number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart in 2018. Tragically, Cranberries lead singer Dolores O’Riordan was supposed to feature on this version but passed away on the day she was scheduled to record her vocals.


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